Why I Farm Roadtrip: Carrie Mess
Dec 06, 2016
Carrie Mess has always been an animal lover, but growing up as a city kid, she never imagined that she’d become known by so many as Dairy Carrie.
“I had no farm background whatsoever. I was the girl that never grew out of loving horses.” Carrie laughs. “Before the cows, I rodeoed and stuff. Horses were my gateway into ag. I had horses from the time I was 16. I went to an auction and bought my first horse and didn’t even have a place to take it. I figured it out, clearly. He’s still in my pasture at my house.”
Like many farmers, FFA played a big role in shaping Carrie’s agricultural path. “There was only an ag program at my high school for the four years that I was there. They started it, had two different teachers over the four years, and then they ended it. It was just a part time program. It was sheer luck that they had that program at the time when I was in high school and I got involved in FFA. I really liked it, but I had no idea at the time really what it was and how much of an impact it could have. I just thought it was cool because it was about animals and horses and stuff that I loved.”
Because off FFA, Carrie met two people who changed her life forever. Her husband, Pat, and her high school ag teacher, Don Schuster. “Don let me show his animals in high school. His animals happened to be miniature donkeys, but that was my thing.” From there, Carrie says she was hooked on agriculture.
Now Carrie enjoys connecting young 4-H and FFA students with animals. “Don’s daughter, Sara was born like two weeks before my first fair. She and I have always had a special bond. When she got to high school, she started showing my animals. So it was really kind of a full circle thing.”
Today, Carrie lives in southern Wisconsin with her husband, Pat and their young son, Silas just down the road from her in-laws, Clem and Cathy, and about 100 dairy cows she knows by name. Over the years, she’s had different roles on the farm where her husband grew up.
“My in-laws always had a hired hand on the farm. The hired hand they had was leaving, and I asked them to hire me. They didn’t want to because I really had no clue what I was doing. I kind of kept pushing. I was their daughter-in-law now, their new daughter-in-law, so they were finally like, ‘Well, we’ll hire her. We'll see how long she lasts.’ That was eight years ago, so it’s worked out pretty well. Pat left his job in town three and a half years ago to come back to the farm full time. Now my husband and I own more than half of the dairy herd.”
Since starting on the farm, Carrie has grown to juggle life as a dairy farmer, mother, traveling speaker, and small business owner. She’s adjusted to a new normal after her mother-in-law’s farm accident and welcoming Silas to the family in the last year and a half. Through all the changes and challenges, Carrie chooses to stay positive.
“I’ve got one tattoo. The words are risk, care, dream, expect from the Cadet Maxim. ‘Risk more than others think is safe, care more than others think is wise, dream more than others think is practical, and expect more than others think is possible.’ That’s like my personal driving thing. That’s how I try to live my life. Take chances, be a good person, have high expectations, and dream.” Carrie starts each day with that mindset.
"This right here. How do you give up on your girls, the cows? When you say, Why I Farm, for me it’s totally the cows. I just love working with them, being around them, getting to know them. I enjoy getting in the tractor and doing field work too, but I’m a cow person. That’s huge. I always loved horses. I did the rodeo and stuff, but there was always something that wasn’t quite a 100% right match for me. And then I found cows. It was like, ‘Oh! Okay, that’s what I’m supposed to do.’ That’s what gets me going every day and why I started agvocating."
That’s why Carrie Mess farms.